Frozen in Time, The Fagel Collection in the Library of Trinity College Dublin

Posted on: 19 December 2016

The first book-length study of the hugely important Fagel Collection in Trinity’s Library has just been published. The collection is an enormously rich resource of books, pamphlets and maps in French, Dutch, English and other European languages, ranging in date from 1460 to 1799.

Purchased for Trinity in 1802, it was assembled over a period of a century and a half by several generations of the Dutch Fagel family. Successive members of the Fagel family held the posts of greffier, akin to prime minister, and deputy greffier of the States General over the previous 125 years.

One of the most important private libraries in early modern Europe, it contains substantial holdings in history, politics and law (including many thousands of pamphlets), but also in virtually every other area of human endeavour: belles-lettres, philosophy and theology, geography and travels (including a magnificent collection of maps), natural history and the visual arts.

Through the acquisition of this collection from a post-Revolution dispersal sale in London the existing library of Trinity College was transformed. Quantitatively, it is estimated that the total holdings were increased by some 40 per cent: at a time when these consisted of roughly 50,000 volumes, a further 20,000 were added – and one must realize that a ‘volume’ can consist of thirty or forty pamphlets bound together, in the same way that twenty-five portfolio boxes contain nearly 3000 sheet maps.

The Fagel map collection is one of the finest in the world – the 11,000 maps are unsurpassable in terms of quality and standard of preservation. It is the only extant contemporary collection of this size that was assembled as the material was published as opposed to retrospectively. There is little duplication in the collection; most items appear to have been acquired if they represented advancement in the knowledge of an area or concerning a recent event or discovery. Many items in the library are private printings, in that they were not made available to the public at large, and are very rare.

Edited by Tim Jackson, Associate Professor of German and Fellow (Emeritus) of Trinity College Dublin and published by Lilliput Press, Frozen in Time, the Fagel Collection in the Library of Trinity College Dublin includes essays by an international group of scholars. While they cannot provide a comprehensive account of such a vast resource, they give a clear illustration of the range of its contents. They touch upon topics as diverse as early Dutch book collections and plans of the cosmos, tulipmania and pamphlets on the Irish rising of 1641, Italian Humanism and the problem of integrating this enormous influx of books into the College Library.

The book was launched in the Long Room with guest speakers, historian Professor Andrew Pettegree, University of St Andrews and the Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast.

To view a video on The Fagel Collection at Trinity College Dublin please see here

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